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Store Manager's Fall Yields $1.5 Million Settlement With Cleaning Service


A store manager who claimed that an on-the-job fall was to blame for spinal injuries necessitating surgery was paid a $1.5 million settlement on Jan. 7 in his Monmouth County suit against the company tasked with cleaning the store, Giannone v. Professional Janitorial Maid Services.

On the early morning of May 30, 2014, Frank Giannone, then 57, was at the Marshalls store on Central Avenue in Clark, opening up the store for employees to enter and begin working. As he walked from the front doors back to his office, he slipped and fell on a wet floor, he claimed in his suit, which named as a defendant Professional Janitorial Maid Services LLC of Eatontown, which provided cleaning services for the store.

Giannone had several pre-existing spinal injuries, including surgeries, but claimed the 2014 fall ultimately led to two surgeries: a two-level fusion at the cervical level and a two-level fusion at the lumbar level, according to his attorney, John Mennie of Schibell & Mennie in Oakhurst.

The suit claimed a Professional Janitorial Maid Services worker mopped the floor on the morning of his fall but failed to put out wet-floor warning signs. The Clark store is located in Union County, though the action was filed in Monmouth County based on the plaintiff's residence, Mennie said.

The defense disputed Giannone's version of the facts—pointing out that Giannone supervised the janitorial worker, knew he was in the store cleaning on the morning of the fall, and gave him a good review for that day—as well as causation, pointing to Giannone's prior spinal injuries and treatment, according to Mennie, who noted that security footage from the store was lost during the case.

Giannone in August 2018 offered to settle the case for $2 million, according to court documents.

There was a $425,000 workers' compensation lien, Mennie said.

The parties settled on Nov. 7, 2018, after three mediation sessions with James Courtney of Toms River, a retired Ocean County Superior Court judge. The settlement was paid on Jan. 7, according to Mennie.

Michael Lynch of Linda Baumann's law firm in East Windsor, counsel to Professional Janitorial Maid Services, didn't return a call about the case.

— David Gialanella

$1M Verdict for Struck Bicyclist

Bailey v. Hennessey: A Middlesex County jury awarded a $1 million verdict on Jan. 30 to a man on a bicycle who was hit by a car. But the plaintiff's payout will be reduced to $650,000 because of the jury's assessment of 35 percent of liability to the plaintiff.

Mariano Simota Bailey was riding his bike north on Clearwater Drive at the intersection with Wells Mills Road in Ocean Township on July 26, 2014, when he was struck by a car driven by Jacqueline Hennessy, said his attorney, Robert Baumgarten of Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd in Newark. Bailey rode past a stop sign without stopping, then crossed the intersection in a crosswalk, when he was struck by Hennessy, Baumgarten said.

Bailey, who was 51 at the time of the accident, sustained a traumatic brain injury and eye injuries that are debilitating and permanent, Baumgarten said. Bailey's right eye droops, as if half-closed, and the right side of his body is weaker than the left side, making it difficult for him to walk, according to Baumgarten.

According to Baumgarten, Hennessy, when questioned in a deposition about why she did not see Bailey in the crosswalk, responded that she did not consider that her obligation, and that it was Bailey's obligation to look out for her car. Baumgarten read back that testimony during trial. The accident was caught by a security camera at a convenience store, and footage of the incident was played for the jury, Baumgarten said.

After a four-day trial before Superior Court Judge Andrea Carter, the jury set damages at $1 million, and apportioned 65 percent of liability to Hennessy and 35 percent to Bailey.

Hennessy was insured by State Farm. Her lawyer, Mark Hochman of Steven Gertler's office in Wall, did not return a call about the case.

— Charles Toutant